Skribe’s Postcards: A Special Delivery

Skribe fans know his minimalist approach.  He makes huge music and art with so few raw materials.  He kicks at a ratty old hi-hat cymbal and bass drum fashioned out of a battered suitcase while he yanks tunes out of yard sale guitars or a canjozookie, an 8-stringed creature made from an old oil can.  He plays a kazoo. skribe canjo-zookie It might look like an accident but it sounds like the sorcerer’s apprentice has enchanted a music store.  His sound and his vibe enchanted enough people to crowdfund his entire 2014 album, Less is More.  How one guy makes that much music is magic indeed!

In December of 2016, Skribe released Postcards, a collection of eight songs with him backed by a full band.  It’s exactly the album many of his fans already heard in their heads.  Anyone who has caught him live has seen plenty of high-test musicians lined up to jam with him and been treated to some obscenely good collaborations.  On Postcards, Skribe takes a road trip with all his musical buddies riding shotgun.  And from the first notes, you’re along for the ride.  This is a fun album!  And if you’re not careful, you might learn something too.

“Wide Awake,” the first track, is about insomnia.  You, fellow traveler, follow his imagination “…through the ceiling into outer space” and back again to the central questions of life.  How does he answer them?  He seeks “…the unturned stones still on the old frontier.”  The music buzzes and reverberates and sounds like infinity.  Six instruments include electric guitar, vibraphone and electric carillon.  After a few listens, you may actually dream about scenes from this song.  It won’t disturb your sleep but it might make you hum in the daylight.  It’s the new sound of ancient wisdom and wondering.

The deep thoughts continue on track two.  Yet “Common Ground” reminds us how simple life can be in the moment.  Horns and drums give the tune an international, festival kind of vibe.  He says, “…the settled heads of perfect pours rise with high demand so fill your soul or thirst for more but tonight won’t come again.”

“Home Sweet Home” would make a great rap.  Or it could have been a hit for Hank Williams.  Skribe grins that he’s gonna “…grow on you like a wicked weed.”   It’s a rambler’s tale of chasing a muse.

“Mayonnaise & Honey” is a rock song about passion.  You’ll get it.  It rocks.

The savory instrumental “Canned Ham Blues” is actually played on a hamjo.  Yep.  It’s a stringed instrument made from the can from a canned ham.  It’s all Skribe.

The song “M.I.Y” had its actual debut in a video Skribe submitted to the 2016 NPR Tiny Desk Concert series.  You can make it yourself.  It’s all about perspective.  In the video you actually see a tiny desk and the canjozookie.

The last original song on the record is “Partners in Crime.”  It could be a paean to his muse, his guitar, his band or his audience.  Whatever the meaning, he means it.  It’s obvious that Skribe, aka Aaron Yealdhall, is at home wherever he finds himself.  He’s enjoying looking for himself and for us.  At shows since the record’s release, he’s introduced himself saying “My name’s Aaron and I play in this band called Skribe.”

So fans can now have something in their hands that they’ve heard in their heads and hearts for a while.  Yes Aaron is Skribe but Skribe is also an idea, an entity.  It’s very Zen for garage folk.  It’s also rock, country and the blues with this big-ol’ band and high production values.  It’s the jackalope in the landscape, the wings on the vacuum tube, and the helmet on the dog.   On these Postcards, Skribe delivers some wonders of the world you will want to write home about and visit over and over.

The final song on the album is “Strangers” by Dave Davies of The Kinks, from their 1970 album Lola.  It says “Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one.”  It’s a perfect fit with the journey metaphors of this album and brings us all home together.

Hello 2017: Charmed I’m Sure

Hello 2017.  I feel like you will be a momentous year for this Earth.  I vow to share all the love I have and music I can gather.  2016 took too many of my musical heroes.  But the music is still here and so are all the people it inspired.  I dedicate my work in 2017 to heroes passed, to being present and to building a future filled with inspiration.

I created a playlist of some of my most memorable shows in 2016.  I kept it to twelve songs by twelve bands but obviously I saw many more great shows and bands.  All of these bands worked their asses off to make the world a happier place and I thank them for it!  I reveled in new releases by Ton-Taun, a new musical pairing with Bjorn Jacobsen and Francois Byers and several new acts that really trip my trigger.  Yam Yam is a funk-rock band from Harrisburg that you can’t help but dig.  Bethlehem and Sad Patrick are so honest and human; they reach me on a biological level.  ovvls bbcOVVLS is an experimental psychedelic duo from Liverpool UK who blessed me with the opportunity to be their tour manager for 12 days.  I can’t look at that playlist and not feel optimistic about the future of music and the spirit of humanity!

Speaking of music, spirit and optimism: I’m hosting Music Friday concerts at 551 West in Lancaster every month in 2017!  shawanTo start the year right, Shawan and The Wonton will bring smooth soul, a touch of folk and a trunk of funk to town.  I feel like life is sending a healing angel on a day many may feel anxious or upset.  Come have some great food and drinks with us.  The show is free and it may free you too.  Shawan should give you a bump for a week!

By Friday January 27th, I predict you’ll be ready for some heavyweight blues.  We have a three-round pounder for you at Tellus360!  I named it Three Points of the Compass Blues because these three acts bring a world of blues styles and hail from three different cities.  ben-voOur center point and headlining is Benjamin Vo Blues Band from little ol’ Lititz.  His skills are ridiculous and he pours his heart into every note of vocals and guitar.  Nobody’s music made a bigger impact on me in 2016 than Ben’s.  Boom.

Hailing from the northern port of Williamsport is Gabe Stillman and The Billtown Giants.  I know these cats from Bullfrog Brewery.  Gabe is young on the outside and ancient on the inside.  He’s actually taking his band south: to The International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.  He’s actually the reason I created this show with Tellus360.  I hosted Gabe at 551 West in November.  Here’s one where Ben sat in!

Our southerner, from The Land of Pleasant Living, is Skribe.  You all know I love Annapolis and its bottomless well of talent.  Skribe is the guy standing there, grinning, cranking the handle and filling your cup.  It won’t take but a few sips of what he’s pouring before you’re loopy for his style. Skribe2 If you caught him when I used to bring him to Dispensing Company, on the main stage at FloydFest, or at any of his 200+ shows a year, I know I’ll see you at Tellus360 on the 27th.  This is a $10 show for just $5 folks!

Nothing like a bargain to start the year right!  Catch some feels with Shawan and The Wonton for free on Friday 20th.  Catch hold of the blues and shake that bugger with Three Points of the Compass Blues on Friday 27th for just $5.  I guarantee that will keep you boppin’ and rockin’ till Groundhog Day at least!

Medusa’s Disco Goes Acoustic: Fruit From a Timeless Planet

Medusa’s Disco Goes Acoustic: No No No Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah!

Maybe you’re old enough or maybe you saw it on YouTube.  Once upon a time MTV played music videos and even hosted a performance series called “Unplugged.”  When grunge rockers Nirvana made their “Unplugged” appearance, lots of people were skeptical…for about half a song.  Somehow the raw, painful beauty of their songs still bored into your heart even though they weren’t blasting your ears.

Such is the trick pulled here by Medusa’s Disco on Fruit From a Timeless Planet, their 2016 acoustic release.  The songs still feel like voices in your head.  They muse on disregard and despair.  The boys still ask big questions about the state of the world, time and space.  The screams and roars have become wails and whispers, calling you to consciousness like some lost band of monks chanting and tripping on Ibogaine.  They pick a line, repeat it, harmonize it and build it up until you’re breathing it as much as hearing it.  “Around here…it’s all so simple…it’s not so simple…no, no, no yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah!” from “Ask the Bird” will have you winking and flying off in one verse.

The intricate rhythms and melodies lend this acoustic set a progressive sensibility.  They don’t have the organs and synthesizers of 70’s era ELP or Yes but they do have ecstatic sitar and violin.  Does anything sound more psychedelic and other-worldly than a sitar?  medusa-acousticFor a young player, Wynton Huddle has a sensual hug on that thing.  And Robin Chambers on violin has long been recognized as a portal to another world.  She’s a special addition to the acoustic edition of MD.  Bees, butterflies and buzzards live in her bow.  Alex Aument on percussion shows a deft touch that belies his years of Muppet-Animal-like explosive nature on drums.  Ty Smith seems freed by going acoustic and styling more on his bass.

The human voice, of course, is the ultimate acoustic instrument.  Hunter Root and Wynton wield their voices like Jedi’s.  You hear and feel every swing of their vocal pipes.  Wails and whispers, screams and roars, mind tricks: they capture your senses and your imagination.  They are vocal pyres that throw a lot of heat.

There’s a complexity and depth to the music beyond the expectations of “…X rock band makes an acoustic album.”  And even with all the bemoaning of lies, liars and promises not kept, they still see promise in the world and reasons to pursue curiosity and enlightenment.  “Don’t wait ‘til you die…to become Divine.”  That is some nourishing Fruit From a Timeless Planet.

Get LAUNCHed in Lancaster

LAUNCH Music Conference returns to Lancaster for their eighth blast-off Thursday thru Saturday night April 21-23.  Day-time events include over 40 panels and seminars conducted by music industry professionals.  Music starts at 6pm all three nights and includes performances by over 200 acts in many styles.  Fourteen downtown venues will be rocking all weekend!

LAUNCH is a good opportunity for musicians to learn, play and network.  It’s very much a gathering of the tribes and regular attendees (like me) treat it like a family reunion of sorts.  The music business can be a lonely road with few directional signs or welcome centers.  This annual weekend gives the musicians a chance to play for big crowds of their friends and to see those bands they rarely can catch due to their own performance schedules.  Plus they never know who might see them perform and offer new opportunities.

You can’t see everybody; it’s the dilemma of festivals with multiple stages.  But here are some acts I can vouch for as fun, talented, provocative models of what the weekend is all about.  As a disclaimer, I should mention that none of my picks are metal/hardcore/thrash styles.  I just don’t appreciate the genre enough to make informed choices.  If you like it, this weekend is custom-made for you because we get too few chances to hear bands like that in Lancaster and LAUNCH founder Jeremy Weiss is an absolute authority on metal.  My one heavy pick: From Under the Willow 7:30pm Saturday at Chameleon Club.

FRIDAY:

  • Noelle Picara 6pm in the lobby of LCCC piano chanteuse from another world
  • Dre Powe with Jamall Anthony 7:15pm LCCC Freedom Hall rap, R&B and soul
  • The Quixote Project 8:45pm at Chameleon Club neo-Roots and Americana
  • Meg and The Right Sound 9:15pm at The Candy Factory hometown Americana
  • Lovebettie 11:15 at Federal Taphouse pop rock with swagger
  • Colin McGetrick 12am at Federal Taphouse singer-songwriter-guitarist of WaveRadio

SATURDAY:

Stagelights Dim at DipCo

I got some sad news over the weekend.  The Lancaster Dispensing Company has decided to cease staging live music after Thanksgiving 2015.  They have been a live music venue since opening in 1978.  To me, it was the equivalent of having your favorite uncle die.DipCo new

I grew up in the restaurant business.  I know it’s a really tough way to make a living.  You count your inventory by the ounce and your profits by the pennies.  You work every weekend and most holidays.  There are hundreds of laws to comply with and you can’t choose your neighbors.  You are the top of the food chain so everyone else’s costs get passed on to you.

So why did the music have to die?  I can only conjecture on Bradley and Judy’s reasons for making what I’m sure was a very tough decision.  I’m not keen to guess and frankly it’s none of my business.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to stage eighteen Gigspots Showcases there.  I have two shows left: October 10 and November 14.  I’d be well pleased to see a good crowd!

OneKoast MD's Finest IX mapDipCo has long been the hub of Lancaster’s music scene and it served me as a place to introduce many bands here.  It was a pivotal stop as I would take bands on tour around the region.  Besides getting their first exposure in our crucial Lancaster market, those bands knew they would get guaranteed pay at the end of the night.

There are few guarantees in life and fewer still for musicians and restaurateurs.  Most of those folks count on people coming in the door to cover their expenses and put some bread on their own tables.  Any musician will tell you that nights with a guarantee are what keep the boat afloat.  Any restaurateur will tell you that the only guarantees are that the bills will arrive and that regular customers can make or break you.

I’m not looking to lay blame any more than I’m guessing what motivated DipCo to stop the music.  There are a few facts that I can share.  The cover charge at the door is five dollars on music nights.  It’s been that price for decades.  Every night, I would see 12-20 people turn away at the door rather than pay it.  We all know that there is no place cheaper to eat and drink downtown and the food is great.  What’s the logic in paying $8 for a beer somewhere else when $8 at DipCo gets you a beer and live music all night?  On the other side of that coin: DipCo’s cover charge is $5 but their average sale per customer is nearly $12.  If you drop the cover charge, can you count on that clientele to meet your averages?  Or will six people share the large nachos and a pitcher of water while enjoying the music?  Either way it’s a risk.  And what value do you place on the artists’ work?

The only guaranteed losers in this equation are the musicians.  There is now one less place to play where you will be guaranteed a payout at the end of the night.  There is one less chance for you to reach the Lancaster market and build your following.  I know that’s crucial because so many nights are dependent on people coming through the door.  And yeah, I know that cover charges and hence band pay have been stagnant for thirty years.  It was $5 to see two bands in 1985 and it still is at nearly every venue.

Live, original music is only a small part of what The Lancaster Dispensing Company has given to our city since 1978.  I’ve had hundreds of great meals and memorable nights there.  It’s where I first met many of my favorite people in Lancaster, where I always brought out-of-town visitors and where I always could count on seeing friendly, familiar faces.  That’s not going to change.

bjorn1The Gigspots Spotlight Showcase on October 10 features two of my friends who are musical freaks.  Returning to the area from NOLA will be Bjorn Jacobsen, the Wayfarer himself, bringing savage tales of busking for a living and being a new daddy.  And yeah, all that dark stuff from the past and weird prophesies for the future will boil over too. Clinton Hibshman Opening the night and a whole can of whup-ass on guitars, harp and songs will be Clinton Hibshman.  I don’t waste a lot of words trying to describe him.  I just turn it up and grab a beer.  He embodies everything that happens at my favorite kinds of parties.

Help me make my last two shows at DipCo those kinds of parties.  Let the food, drinks and good times roll!  Have you partied there?  Have you played there?  Let’s celebrate what it’s meant to us all.

Up Around The Bend and Back

Ah summer!  I had a great season.  I shared a lot of laughs, adventures and good times with family and friends old and new.  I haven’t been blogging but boy have I been living!  The only problem with not writing is getting started again.  Then yesterday morning I heard the old Creedence Clearwater Revival tune “Up Around The Bend” from Cosmos Factory and knew I had my prompt.

Up Around The Bend

By Creedence Clearwater Revival

There’s a place up ahead and I’m goin’
Just as fast as my feet can fly
Come away, come away if you’re goin’,
Leave the sinkin’ ship behind.

[Chorus:]
Come on the risin’ wind,
We’re goin’ up around the bend.

Ooh!

Bring a song and a smile for the banjo,
Better get while the gettin’s good,
Hitch a ride to the end of the highway
Where the neons turn to wood.

[Chorus:]

Ooh!

You can ponder perpetual motion,
Fix your mind on a crystal day,
Always time for a good conversation,
There’s an ear for what you say.

[Chorus:]

Yeah!

Ooh!

Catch a ride to the end of the highway
And we’ll meet by the big red tree,
There’s a place up ahead and I’m goin’
Come along, come along with me.

[Chorus:]

Yeah!

I guess I’m wired that way.  As a soldier, I learned that On Leave means leave it behind.  As a student and later a teacher, I treasured my summer vacations.  My life certainly is NOT a “…sinkin’ ship” I need to leave behind.  But when I get to “…where the neons turn to wood,” I’m glad to get out of the glare.

Of course I found time for some Gigspotting!  Have you seen my latest videos of Medusa’s Disco, Ton-Taun, Leo & Cygnus and Stolen Rhodes?  How about my playlists from LAUNCH or The Ladybug Festival?  If not, they’ll be there and they’ll soon be joined by many more.  I’ve been up around the bend but now I’m back.

jocelynf2And whoa, Daddy, do I have some great shows lined up for fall!  I hope to see you every second Saturday at Lancaster Dispensing Company and every third Friday at The Elks Lodge Ballroom!  Up first: Jocelyn Faro and The Ragazzi plus Justin Angelo at DipCo 9/12!